"He said to us, 'You will find it hard'. He said we would find it hard mentally because he wants us all to push ourselves to the limit."

- Jonny Evans

01/08/2014 08:38, Report by Ben Hibbs
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Van Gaal inspires and innovates's Ben Hibbs looks at the impressive start to life at United under Louis van Gaal on and off the pitch... 

Right from the very moment Louis van Gaal breezed into Old Trafford - hardly flustered by a meagre two days off after leading the Netherlands to third place at the World Cup in Brazil - he was already innovating, inspiring and instigating changes to bring his fresh approach at United.

The Aon Training Complex pitches the first team players use were different from the surface at Old Trafford. They'll now have the same part-synthetic composition that OT's state-of-the-art pitch boasts. They are also too open to the elements – which any one of the dedicated devotees who attend Academy matches will tell you, leaves even those steady on their feet fearful they might be whisked off into Carrington farmland – so, let's make it more sheltered because "wind is not always the friend of the players or the ball".

"The squad is imbalanced," he also pointed out, "we have four no.10s". Van Gaal has expressed a desire to play 4-3-3 but that would also mean leaving too many of the team's strikers on the bench, so there's a refocusing to the 3-5-2 system he used at the World Cup. It's an established system but a relatively new sight at United where chalk-on-their-boots traditional wingers have long ruled the roost. Most importantly it's challenging players throughout the team to think differently: "I'm training the players in their brains, not their legs," the boss says.

There's possibly also a distinction in van Gaal's reference to his own role as the more continental-sounding "trainer-coach", which implies the very active and hands-on role he applies on the training field. Rather than manager, which perhaps suited Sir Alex Ferguson better than anyone.

Still, van Gaal is nevertheless in charge and, from watching his exchanges with the world's media in press conferences and listening to first-team players talk about him, he is positively plain-talking; the players know what is expected of them and, coming from a revered coach with vast experience and success trailing in his slipstream, you're bound to listen and be inspired to carry out instructions.

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